Saturday night, I attended a “big three monotheisms” gathering, led by and for Muslims. Among their prayers, was a funeral in absentia for the Christchurch victims. One Jewish guy said to a Muslim woman, “I’m sorry we have to keep meeting under these circumstances.”

The Christians in attendance were, as far as I could tell, protestant mainliners. One was a stoll wearing baptist. Another a Methodist. The others, Episcopalians.  I point this out because “mourn with those who mourn” and “love your neighbor as yourself” is what Christianity is supposed to look like.

It’s not, for instance, supposed to look like this lone weirdo on Hollywood Blvd.


Right-wing xenophobic terrorists -yes, terrorists– have aimed their rhetoric and weapons at anything and anyone who is not their own reflection. Yet many United States Christians consider themselves ‘safe’ because they speak English natively, are mostly white, and have plenty of cultural, social, and political capital.

Theologically, they believe that Christianity is primarily about getting to heaven when you die, while waiting for God to whisk you off the planet. (I.e. that deeply mistaken dogma known as ‘dispensational premillennialism’), oh “sin” is mostly about sex, media consumption, drug use (legal or otherwise), and other purity concerns, nearly excluding any others.

Politically, they have allied themselves with conservatism since at least the 80s. In the worst cases, they have declared “caeser is lord”, and joined the cult known as the Religious Right. (I’m looking at you, Jerry Falwell jr, David Barton, Robert Jeffress etc) They frequently do not consider moral or spiritual matters in doing so.


Bow to Nebuchadnezzar or the socialists win.

In doing so, they enable (but do not cause) right-wing xenophobes through apathy and support for public figures who refuse to address xenophobic violence. (To say nothing of overt illiberalism, but that’s another subject). This enabling is as much a consequence of theology as it is of politics.

Therefore, to any Christians ‘lukewarm’ on the Christchurch mosque shooting, we are not safe either. A xenophobe has already assailed one of our houses of worship (Charleston, 2015). We can expect the xenophobes to treat us no better than the fascists treated Bonhoeffer.

Even if we are safe, our neighbors are not. “But who is my neighbor?” Vulnerable people who do not share our cultural and political capital… including Muslims. Note well, there are commandments beyond purity.

After all, Muslims stood up for Christians in Egypt back in 2011. One of our holiest sites (Church of the Holy Sepulchre) has been under the care of the same Muslim family for centuries.

Apathy only enables. So for Christ’s sake -literally- join with the rest of Christianity and resist right-wing, xenophobic, terrorists.


Coptic Christians and Muslims together in Tahrir Square, Cairo in 2011

And to the caeser-worshipping members of the Religious Right, only one thing remains to be said.

“Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

A co-worker at my job passed his CCNA to celebrate, we went out to the Cosmopolitan Hotel and eventually the strange and fun club that is Rose Rabbit Lie.

My evening started with my first video poker experience at the Cosmopolitan Casino bar. For those of you who don’t know what video poker is, it is kind of like an arcade game. For those of who don’t know what an arcade is, google it or watch TRON. The game is simple: you slip in a twenty dollar bill to the arcade game console, and then an intense graphical display worthy of Windows 95 pops up. Cards come up with numbers on them, and then you press buttons. These cards are important because you get more credits, or less credits, based on nothing other than probability. The people I was with were visibly excited about the cards. This was the game I played -not exactly something to go to Blizzcon for. I will never fully understand gambling, but I do understand getting a thirteen dollar drink for the price of money lost to video poker.

After our first round of drinks, we headed down the doors of Rose Rabbit Lie. Naturally, we went there because we had a hook up. Too bad our hook up was not there. Neither did our hook up leave a note. We all looked to the member of our party who was connected to the hook up, but whose promise was beginning to evaporate like the ice droplets off of our glasses. Thankfully, the door man let us in as he made a few calls.  Lesson learned? It might be possible to social hack one’s way into Rose Rabbit Lie on a Thursday night.

Rose Rabbit Lie itself could best summed up as a mash of up Lewis Carrol, Tim Burton, and your musical theater friends from school.  The performances included a Piff the Magic Dragon, a beat boxer, twin tap dancers, a whimsically creepy maid, and a fit acrobat  dancing inside a suspended, transparent sphere. My favorite part involved the Chihuahua and the cartoon cannon. It was Looney Toons came to life.


Come on, you knew both of them back when you performed “Footloose” for your home town.

The night ended with the dance floor opening up to a rotating (literally) platform of Djs including one dressed as a frog. A couple of the IT guys I was with started dancing. A group of bachlorettes joined the floor. The crowd full of urban professionals moved into the floor, drank a bit, and generally stopped acted their age. For instance, one of the bachlorettes crossed her arms and scowled like a disapproving minister’s wife. Also, the bouncers had to ask people to stop hurling the ping pong balls at each other.


Not to be confused with “splasher” who taught us all not to swim in canals.

It was about this time, that we realized we’d lost our friend who passed his CCNA.  We found him at the bar, mostly drunk, and loudly extolling the comfort of the chair he sat it.

And a comfy chair it was.

The next morning, we all arrived at work as normal. I drank the least and slept the latest. That means I win.

For anyone who has been sleeping under a rock, Ken Ham and Bill Nye the Science gathered for what could be a rehash of popular stereo-types.  About a year ago, I wrote a piece on Bill Nye and Young Earth Creationism (YEC). This blog then will skim over the hits and misses that both men made in the debate.  As a caveat, I only watched the debate up until end of the rebuttals.  This was because that’s where the basic points were laid out, and because I ran out of shots of rum to keep me though this circus.  Without further ado, here’s how I think both men did and why we need to do better next time.

Bill Nye

Bill Nye made it clear throughout his debate that he had an axe to grind with YEC, not with Christianity in general.  This kept the debate from devolving into atheism v Christianity.  It also demonstrated, though not very vividly, that YEC is not a majority viewpoint.  Bill Nye theological fluency is limited (more on that later), but he is trying made his presentation different.

Nye made two points that Ken Ham did not deal with adequately.  First, he demonstrated that there were trees, with greater than 4000 tree rings meaning that these tress are more than 4000 years old.  Bill Nye made other arguments for the age of the earth, but I felt that this point was the easiest to understand.  Also, it pokes an eye in the global flood.  Furthermore, Nye took on the claim that Animal “kinds” went into the arc.  After that, YEC claims that micro evolutionary change created the species we know today.  Nye demonstrated, with math, how many new species per day that would mean.  Far too many, in his view, to be justified.

Bill Nye also argued that the genesis account might not be trusted because it is old, and has been translated many times.  Unfortunately, this point is where Nye shows a lack of theological fluency.  If we assume that if a book is old and a book has been translated, then it is not trustworthy, we have a serious problem with history.  In fact, there may be very little that we can know about the ancient world.  Furthermore, YEC aren’t particularly sophisticated in their reading of the Bible, but they are not so daft to believe that English is the only language they need.  Nye seemed out of his element when dealing with the Bible.

Nye, kept this message going: bring on the evidence, and scientists will happily change their minds without hesitation.  This is a noble ideal.  It is how science is perceived at a popular level.  Now consider the following three examples.  First, Blaise Pascal did an experiment with a mercury tube, a saucer, and a hike up a mountain.  He thought he demonstrated once and for all that vacuums can exist.  However, his detailed papers were harshly received, particularly by Rene Descartes who declared, “he [Pascal] has much vacuum in his head.”  Second, astronomer Robert Jastrow, an agnostic, detailed the story of how scientists reacted as evidence for the big bang in “God and the Astronomers.”  Scientists slowly accepted, but begrudgingly in part because of its theological implications according to Jastrow.  Finally, when every geocentric astronomer and Aristotelian physicist fought hard against Galilleo’s model in part because they needed to keep their jobs.  The point I am making here is Nye’s message about scientific objectivity is an ideal that does not so easily translate into reality.  Scientific paradigms do not turn on a dime.

Finally, and most importantly, Nye reiterated that he can’t accept that scientific laws changed.  However, at no point did I notice that Ken Ham made the claim that they did.  Nye then, seemed to be batting at a straw man with this assertion.

Ken Ham

Ken Ham is a rhetorician.  He is a sophist.  He is an ad-man.  As an ad-man, he uses celebrity endorsements.  In this case, his endorsements are a series of passionate scientists who endorse creationism like Bill Cosby Sells Jell-o.

As crass, and even artless as this was, it helped make Ken Ham make his strongest point.  Central to Nye’s thesis is this: creationism hold science back.  Look at fire alarms, rocket ships, and medicine.  The implication for Nye is not that we use the same laws to argue for origins that we do to make technology, it seems that as long as long as creationism is around, the progress of technology will slow down.

Ken Ham does not need to argue against this point, because his endorsements demonstrate that it is possible to contribute to science despite endorsing young earth creationism.  If a scientist can design a solar panel for a satellite or do research in bacteria growing on fruit, than I think an empirically minded person has to shrug their shoulders and admit that creationists are contributing to technology and medicine like any other.

I am not comfortable agreeing with Ham.  Nonetheless, he’s has a point.  The efficacy of the Polio vaccine rested on the isolation of the virus and a lot of animal testing, not an evolutionary model of human origins.  The process of Pasteurization kills microbes in milk no matter how old we believe the earth is.  The Apollo 8 capsule still went to space and back, even though the astronauts had the audacity to read the Genesis account over the radio.

While I realize that there is more Nye’s thesis, I think Ham laid down evidence -yes evidence- that Nye needs to overcome.  If a someone is a young earth creationist and contributes to technology and medicine, that’s a problem.  Nye can call them inconsistent.  He can declare them unfit to teach.  But he has a much harder time demonstrating that they hold back tangible, practical, scientific development.  Furthermore, Ken Ham asked Nye what medical advancement depend on the “molecules to man” evolutionary model.  Nye did not directly address this in his debate.

Better Debates

It may seem like I am coming out in support of Ham, but I’m not.  Like most people in this debate, I watched it with my mind made up, and it wasn’t going to change.  The real reason for debates like this is to deepen people’s understanding of both sides, and hopefully, see which one is better.  There has been some great message board discussion, here though are ways that debates like this might be better.

First, focus the question.  Part of the reason why neither guy looked great in this debate is that the question is too broad.  Rather than “is YEC an viable belief about origins” let’s focus it into specific aspects of YEC.  How about: is a global flood viable?  Are tree rings a viable indicator of the age of the earth?  How about radio carbon dating, or permafrost?  Could there have been a ship the size of Noah’s Arc and would it have been seaworthy?  The reason for this two fold.  First, meta-narratives like YEC and Macro-evolution are made of hundreds of tiny parts.  Second, when people change their mind about something, they do so slowly.

A second way to make the debate better is Bill Nye’s limit theological fluency.  The biggest gaffe that any speaker can make before Christians -not simply YEC fundies, but more ‘moderate’ Christians, and Christians scholars- is to disparage the Bible because it is old and translated.  This is informal logical fallacy (appeal to novelty) or what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery.”  Additionally, the sciences of linguistics, archeology, and anthropology all play a role in the translation and understanding of the Bible.  So if we use science to translate it, why do we complain about its translation?

While there is no reason for Bill Nye to be what he admitted he is not (a theologian), he might have solicited the help of a few.  Nye presented, through perhaps a dry statistic, how many Christians disagree with Ham.  That’s a good start.  Now, imagine how much more effective that would have been if he gathered a few video clips as Ham did with his creationist scientists.  Perhaps Nye tried to recruit them, and failed.  I don’t know.  I wasn’t there.

Finally, Ham should debate someone else.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate that Bill Nye debated him, but the following scenarios might help:

  • Ken Ham versus a Christian Theistic evolutionist: Is death before humankind reconcilable with a “goodness of creation”?
  • Ken Ham versus a Christian Old Earth Creationist: how old is the earth?
  • Ken Ham versus an Old Testament Scholar: what is the message of Genesis 1:1-2:3?

In sum, this debate did stimulate important discussion online.  It did demonstrate the vast gulf between the two views.  Hopefully the discussion will deepen in the minds of the people who watched it, and inspire them to a sense of greater investigation, and avoid the simple reinforcing of trite stereotypes.

One weekend ago, I visited Los Angeles for another trip.  This was for our group of Creative Artists to have a little party, and show each other our work.  Without further ado, here’s why I love CAN.

Funny Songs

A friend played her ukelele.  She played a song about the plight of anyone who graduated college, with an economically useless degree during a recession.  You can’t even get a job at Starbucks, but you can make friends laugh.  Yes, we’re all laughing at ourselves.  We can’t get jobs in one of the most expensive cities in the union, but somehow we manage to have art nights at a mid century mansion.  Irony.

Impromptu Old Timey Dance

Another reason I love artist nights is impromptu old timey dance.  Not sure who first put it on, but there was an ipad set to an old jazz station.  At some point between Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, it became dance time.  We did a few turns, some spins, a sweat heart wrap where and there.

New Vocabulary

Did you know that you can learn new words, just by hanging out with writers?  Here’s how one conversation went.

Me: Wait, you dated that guy?

Her: Yes.  An eighteen month long relationship happened.

Me: I never knew.

Her (swigs a bit of liquor): Because I am not a Facebook Exhibitionist.

Fudging in its Finest and Fantasies

The other reasons why I love can is that I can perform the single most challenging song I’ve ever attempted, fudge chords, and still get a great amount of applause.  Also, I can write a short script and have it read.  These are the things that make CAN special.

Most importantly, friends at CAN remind me why I need to be back in Los Angeles.  Anyone got a job opening?

Last year, I wrote that the Hobbit trilogy ought to be judged as movies, not on how pure it is relation to the book.  In fact, we should look at these films a bit more like we look at fan fiction.  There will be creative embellishments, for sure, and our evaluation shouldn’t be “oh the book didn’t have it like that!” but rather “these changes and additions kept to the spirit of the original work.”

That said, here are my thoughts.

Bilbo and the Ring

Obviously, the One Ring is a major plot device in the Lord of the Rings.  We know its evil corrupting power, and why it must be destroyed.  This is a major theme in Lord of the Rings.  That’s Lord of the Rings, not The Hobbit.

The ring was insidious because of how perfectly innocuous it appeared in the Hobbit.  In the Hobbit, the ring is nothing more than a lucky find that turns Biblo invisible, which is a subtle nod to the kind of life that Hobbits want.  However, in this adaptation Biblo doesn’t use the ring we would really expect  him to:  Such as keeping it on when he’s fighting the spiders.  Or keeping it on when he’s having a chat with Smaug.  There were too many scenes where Biblo was supposed to hide but didn’t in this film.  I am actually afraid that he’s going to suit up to join the battle of the five armies.

Speaking of Smaug, in the film Smaug senses the ring’s presence when Bilbo is around.  He mentions that knows Bilbo has it, but of course he can’t quite tell what it is.  Now think carefully about this: what would a treasure obsessed maniac think if he knew that one other person had the one unique piece of treasure that he doesn’t have?  Smaug’s mention of the ring not only overly foreshadows it, but actually betrays his character when he doesn’t try to possess it.

Action Adventure on the Barrels

The barrel scene, in the book, is a subtly comical.  The overly proud dwarves are obviously hapless.  They’d have been eaten by spiders, trolls, and worse were it not for the burgler they hired.  In the movie, the barrel escape scene served the same purpose as the Goblin King scene in the first movie.  That is, an fun little advert for the upcoming video game.

Now I hated the goblin escape scene in the first movie, but enjoyed the barrel ride in this movie.  Why?  For two simple reasons: a dwarf -Kili iirc- was severally wounded and there was unexpected closed gate on their way out.  These simple little additions turned an annoying, lucasesque, CGI fest into a fun to watch scene where I cared about the outcome of what was happening.  The orcs too were a nice addition here.  Their conflict with the wood elves foreshadowed a threat that we expect to come in the Lord of the Rings, without compromising the spirit of the book.

Additionally, I also enjoyed the negotiation preceding the barrel run.  At one point, the king of the wood elves offers Thorin a deal.  Thorin throws the deal back in his face because he can’t trust elves.  He can’t trust elves, because he still remembers their broken promise.  This is a beautiful character flaw that made me like Thorin more.

Pre-revolutionary Lake Town

After the the romp through the barrels, Biblo and company arrive at the Lake Town. There, they meet Jean Valjean, Monsieur Defrange, Robertspierre… wait what?

When it comes to themes of Tolkien’s work, we have to remember that we’re reading pre-modern fantasy literature.  It was, after all, meant to be on par with the epic tales of Beowulf and similar ballads and legends.  So why do we encounter a lake town like this?  Why are dealing with thematic questions of economic oppression and talk of elections?  It is not that these themes aren’t themes worth exploring, but its that these themes belong to a different era.  This embellishment was so thematically jarring that it became hard for me to take this seriously.  It got worse when they added a “everyone is being watched” feel to lake town.  What, so we’re adding a theme that usually only found in sci-fi and dystopias?

Lake town is not supposed to be Paris, France circa 1785.  Yet, that is what this entire subplot, complete with a despot revealing in his own vain opulence, made me think of.  They even threw in a few shots of “sort of like slaves, but totally not” Africans in for further sympathy.  Everything about Lake Town was wrong.  Themes about elections, economic oppression, and leaders spying on you do not work in Tolkein’s literary world, because these themes and questions belong in other genres.

Thorin Confronts Smaug

If there is one thing that Jackson did that maybe Tolkien never showed us it was: well what does Thorin think about Smaug?  Well let’s see it.

There were two especially poignant scenes here.  The first, was when Thorin and the Dwarves first enter their home through the secret entrance.  It was clear as Thorin and company walked, and lovingly touched the walls, that this quest is about a lot more than gold for them.  Yes, the dwarves are greedy, but their also deeply wounded.  Furthermore, when they fled the dragon they found a cave full of the charred bodies of the last dwarves who tried to escape.  Here, we’re allowed to experience a little bit more of Thorin’s world, and how terrible Smaug really is.

Sadly, I felt that these scenes were eclipsed by the action adventure aspect of the film.  Thorin too quickly returns to stoic, composed leader (which we’ve already seen), so that we can have a romp around the ruins, climaxing in an elaborate trap that the dungeon master set up.  Why did we not see a greater emotional reaction from Thorin here?  Honestly, after leaving a room full of charred bodies, I would’ve expected Thorin to either become raging mad or have some other serious emotional breakdown.  It’s strange when that scene affects the audience more than the characters in the film.  I might be the only one who feels that way.

The transition to the final scene turned into a somewhat interesting, overtly symbolic, testing of Smaug’s invincibility.  Yeah, whatever.

Did it all work

Was this a bad movie?  No it was not a bad movie.  However, I can’t honestly say I enjoyed this film.  The embellishments kept yanking me out of Tolkien’s world and into something Peter Jackson probably thought would be good mass appeal.

So, by all means, go watch this movie.  But you know what else you should do?  Watch the 1970s animated version on Netflix too.  After that, get yourself a nice leather bound copy of the original work, curl up by a fire, and read it out loud to your kids.

As many of you know, I moved to Las Vegas this last fall.  Many friends have asked about life in Vegas, especially since I took a facebook hiatus last month that will probably continue into this month of December.  Here are some FAQs about Las Vegas and my life in Las Vegas so far.

Win any Money?

Yes, I win money every weekday by going to work and doing my job.  Furthermore, I win money by the occasional royalties checks.  By the way, check out

No, I meant at the Casinos silly!

Although the Casinos are enticing places, I’m only half Filipino.  I never developed the critical skills of learning Mah Jong, Poker, or how to play slots flush money down a toilet.  Bi-racial people are double the minority.

charles2013Is that you dressed up as Neo?


Is that your boss dressed up as Morpheus?

No. That is the real Morpheus, on whom Laurence Fishburne’s legendary role was based.

Are you dating a stripper yet?

Yes.  Her name is Scarlet and she’s doing it get her way through nursing school.

Do you often joke about dating strippers?


What do you do for fun?

I went to a goth club, with my boots of baddassery, and danced in the tears of alienation to the dreary electronic vibe of Depeche Mode.  Other than that, I’m pretty much just writing, blogging, and playing games.

How many sociopaths did you fire this last month?

Exactly one.



Are you going to do something for your birthday?

Depends.  Are you coming to visit?

ImageOffended by this picture?  Put God and money in the same headline, and you’ll get unwanted attention.  Of course, a chrome-domed financial guru like David Ramsey can take little flack.  Gurus like him assume a fundamental axiom: one’s habits/choices determine one’s financial well being.  Recently, Ramsey posted a list (not of his own making) of the habits of the poor versus the habits of the wealthy.

In reaction, a trio of Bloggers from Her.meneutics (Caryn Rivadeneira, Rachel Marie Stone, and Marlena Graves) denounced his list.  They implied that the list showed a contempt for the poor, did not apply to the third world, and rightly said that it is not easy (and maybe not possible) for the 1st world poor to follow the “rich” people habits.

Rachel Held Evans hit the nail on the head when she wrote:

One need not be a student of logic to observe that Corley and Ramsey have confused correlation with causation here by suggesting that these habits make people rich or poor.

Overall, the fair criticism raised important questions.  Marlena Graves acknowledged in her twitter feed that Ramsey helped people.  RHE did the same in her article.  By far, the best point made was that correlation does not imply causation.  What does mean?  It means that the first time you read that list, you might think that regular gym time will help you get rich.  But what if it’s the other way around?  What if it’s your 85k a year job that provides a nice gym? It’s the one of the building’s first floor.  The one you go to before you commute home elsewhere in Silicon Valley. Also, Marlena Graves is right that many of these habits will simply be impractical for the bus-riding, two-job working, members of society to follow.  Who can encourage their kids to read or volunteer if both parents are working 60+ hours in a week?  What is the point of networking when you have no skills?

But were these strong words as constructive as they could have been?  It’s true that nothing in this list applies outside of the first world.  But was it supposed to?  Ramsey’s niche audience in evangelicalism is the American Middle class.  He can’t be faulted for speaking primarily to their context.  Does the list show contempt for the poor?  Yes, someone who does show contempt for the poor can think these things.  But does everyone who think these things show contempt for the poor?  Finally, it’s a low blow to call Ramsey’s message part of the prosperity Gospel.  I’ll believe that Ramsey is one of them when he says that Jesus’ disciples were rich, sprinkles gold gust from his pulpit, or similar tripe.

Is Dave Ramsey’s fundamental axiom totally wrong?  I worked as teacher’s aide to an “at risk” community.  One day, I learned that many vocational programs at the school were cut.  This cut had a noble intention (“get them all to college!”), but it had the practical effect of denying those students opportunities that were available to their middle class counterparts.  So yes, there are plenty of when outside forces keep the poor, poor, in America.  At the same time (and there’s no delicate way to put this), I listened to 15-17 year old girls talk casually, candidly, and even enthusiastically about how they planned to have a baby -while still in their teens.  Can anyone really deny that this is a poor choice that is indicative of a poor lifestyle?

The most constructive approach is not to attack perceived contempt of the poor.  Neither is it to opine that such a list applies only first worlders.  It certainly is not helpful to hyperbolicly group Ramsey in with people like this:


Did you budget for those shoes, or is that on your credit card? Stupid Tax! Stupid Tax!

The best thing to do, in my opinion, is to take the best of criticism from RHE and her.menuetics.  We should realize that correlation does not imply causation.  The habits can either help get your rich, or are things you can do when you’re already rich.  Second, take the criticism that some of these are going to be harder to do when your poor *and* that many of these can be done regardless of your net worth.

If we can find habits that people can do regardless of their net worth, than those are quite possibly the ones that should be endorsed.  I won’t go through them all, but here’s a few openers for everyone’s thoughts:

Habit 1: 1. 70% of wealthy eat less than 300 junk food calories per day. 97% of poor people eat more than 300 junk food calories per day. 23% of wealthy gamble. 52% of poor people gamble.

If we define “junk food” as sugary snacks, pre-packaged chips, and anything loaded with high-fructose corn syrup, than this is something that does not depend on your net worth.  No matter where you live, you can pass on soda and snickers.  Gambling is very much something that is anyone’s control.   Casinos are designed to separate fools from their money, regardless of the skill or talent of the fool (yes, I realize that poker and other games are exceptions, but these are exceptions); thus it is obvious that avoiding gambling will more likely bring financial success.

Habit 5: 81% of wealthy maintain a to-do list vs. 19% of poor.

Does anyone think you must be financially successful before you can make a to-do list?

Habit 13: 67% of wealthy watch one hour or less of TV every day vs. 23% of poor.

In the her.menutics article, TV was almost lauded as one of the few leisure’s of the poor, which is maybe why they can’t not watch a week long Honey Boo Boo marathon or other poverty porn.  I strongly disagree with this.

The list will go on.  Go ahead and read it and ask: which habits can you do, no matter how much money you have in the bank?

It’s all to common with a liberal arts education: my degree has about as much economic application as horseshoeing on a spaceship.  I’m reminded of this monthly, when I write those checks to loan companies.  There’s an extra reminder now.  The Alma Mater, Azusa Pacific, has hired students to call me up.  Yes, we all know why.

With some exaggeration, it is easy to feel like this when you get calls from a private educational institution.

"but we gave you 10k in scholarships!!"

“but we gave you 10k in scholarships!!”

Every single alum has at least one reason not to donate.  Additionally, there is a second.  Specifically, many alums are disgusted about the public, and dramatic issue regarding Adam (formally Heather) Ackley the transgender theology PhD who was dismissed (as graciously as possible?) from APU.  Whatever an outsider’s perception of this event, many from the APU community are not in agreement with this dismissal.  A number of students on campus have come out with the supportive slogan “we stand with Adam.”  They may speak for others; students and alum at APU are perhaps more free to speak their minds about human sexuality and Christianity than the people on the campus payroll.  While equally LBGT supportive alums appreciate this, we still know our alma mater has embarrassed itself by doing something we find morally objectionable.  All of this leaves us with a feeling of disgust, frustration, irritation.  No matter how sweet the other person sounds on those cold calls, these feelings aren’t going to go away.

I suggest that these feelings are reasons for alums to donate, rather than an additional reason to shun our alma mater’s inconvenient phone calls.

First, APU’s dismissal of Adam Ackley is horrible mark, but it does not invalidate everything else the school does well.  I regret that I will not be able to attend APU’s celebrate Christmas choral and musical performances this year.  A few weeks ago, several other alums and held a fantastic night of singing, dancing, and improvised comedy.  These nights could never have happened without our APU connection.  There are more altruistic causes too.  One of my former classmates is finishing  up Psy D program with the express purpose to help women pro bono.  Another friend has worked for a children’s non-profit for years.

Second, I think it behooves recent alum (and by that I mean anyone who is between 24-30ish) to consider why APU bit the bullet and dismissed a transgender individual.  It can be only in part because of “Christian Values.”  Whether we like it or not, the older generation has the deep pockets.  These people make up the donation base.  They’re also more conservative on issues of gender and sexuality.  Do other APU hold these views that strongly? I have a hard time believing that any the intellectuals at the campus actually wanted to see their colleague go.  Enough students on campus have shown support for Adam.  As blunt as it is, a transgender professor is probably more offensive to donors than to students or scholars.

I think this is where a humble, and slightly more than symbolic, contributions from recent alums come in.  The silver lining of entire Ackley fiasco is that the university (and anyone connected with it) has to confront this issue of gender identity and Christianity.  We all already know what the result will be in twenty years.  Transgender individuals will become more and more accepted.  Eventually too the broader Christian community will wonder why we thought that dismissing a transgender individual made any kind of sense.  Most of the younger than 30 Christians I know aren’t particularly bothered by LGBT acceptance.  Even those who disagree with things like gay marriage aren’t the type who are pro-actively opposing it.  Eventually, the views of the younger generation will supplant the views of the older.

Therefore, I’d like to put a little money to demonstrate this to University.  I want APU to know that I support my Alma Mater.  I want them to know that I believe in its mission and goals.  I want them to know that my time at APU is still a time I remember well.

Furthermore, I want them to know that I’m sympathetic to LGBT causes.  I believe that “Christian Values” do not demand exclusion on this basis.  Finally, at some point in the future, I want APU to make decisions on LGBT based on purely on conscience, not on donation ledgers.  The only way APU can be freed from the fear of offending a donation base, is if enough of their donation base is demonstrably supportive of LGBT issues.

It might be a drop in the bucket, but I like to show support with my wallet.


Today, I share with you, my NaNoWriMo loglines.  These are my loglines for my story, which will be beaten out over the next few weeks in time for a 50k word novel.

Because I really want to finish a novel, not just hit 50k words this time.

Thanks Blake Synder.

I don’t know which to go with quite yet, so here I am crowdsourcing.

To be clear, all of these stories will take place in the Forgotten realms Campaign setting.  It will be very Dungeons and Dragons style.  Here are the log lines I’ve done.

“While sorting through Ancient ruins, a treasure hunter is struck by a geas, and placed on a quest.” – No Title #1

“A pious ascetic receives a ring of wishes from a dying thief.” -The Vice

“An adventuring aristocrat illicits the help of a former slave trader to solve mysterious disappearances in Waterdeep.” -Ghosts of Skullport

“After a violent ambush, a dangerous artifact of a dead god lands in the hands of a penitent bandit.” -No Title #2

“An out of luck, and out of coin, adventurer is tricked into disrupting a high-born Waterdeep marriage through an elaborate and magical kidnapping.” -No Title #3

“While investigating blight on farmland, an idealistic adventurer rescues a male-drow slave only to draw more ire from deep dwelling drow and even the surrounding surface dwellers.” -The Companion


Which story is the best?


A NASA engineer predicts the rapture in 1988. A career eschatologist declares that Christians should plan to be off the earth by the year 2000. A chorus of bloggers and ministry leaders ascribe a prophetic connection between the book of Isaiah and the violence in Syria. What separates the final group of speculators from the rest? Only that time has not yet proven them wrong. (That, and they probably have not collected their full share of publishing royalties) All speculate about news events. All look at real life, far away, violence as if it was exciting action movie. All are as committed to Christian Zionism as fish are to water.


The Bible says this civil war will lead to war in Europe. What no? ahh… well the Antichrist will arise from the German Empire. They’re our allies now? Dammit. Well the rapture will occur now that 9/11 happened… I’m sure of it this time…

Christian Zionism, broadly termed here, is the belief that events in the middle east have prophetic significance. This leads to speculation about future events. The Bible is used as if it were a crystal ball.. Why should anyone take the alleged prophecies about Syria in 2013 any more seriously than the now false prophecies about the Soviet Union or the rapture in the 1980s? It is easy for Christian Zionists to invoke 2 Peter 3:3-4. Yet this is little more than self-affirming circular reasoning. It begs the question, “what do these prophecies even mean?” While many Christian Zionists believe their method of interpretation is self-evidently true, conservative, and literal, I submit that it is none of these. More practically, the political consequences of their teachings are destructive.

On a message board years ago, a Christian Zionist once explained their methods this way: Just as Jesus’ generation was meant to watch for signs of his first coming, so must contemporary Christians must watch for his second. Specifically, any current event will help us make sense the prophecies. So when a news event (Syria) seems to match something in the Bible (Isaiah 17) than that is enough reason to believe that prophecy is being fulfilled. Of course, they are often clever enough to not nail down exact dates, but their speculations nevertheless reflect what they think the Bible teaches.

The problem with this method is that any event in history can look like a fulfillment of prophecy. The commercial success of the literature mentioned earlier proves this. Considering the list of failed predictions (and there have been a lot of failed predictions!) maybe it is a good idea to re-evaluate the method before deciding that preventible armed conflict is per-determined by God.

Many others explain that their methods are conservative because it reads the Bible literally whenever possible. This way they avoid (as LaHaye famously put it) confusing metaphors. But are they consistent? Many Zionists interpret the seven churches addressed in the opening of Revelation as seven symbolic church ages even though the letter itself gives us no reason to do so. This is only one example of the inconsistency of “literal whenever possible.”

If anyone is going to understand the Bible, especially the apocalyptic visions, we need a deeper examination. Consider the following questions when applied to Isaiah or books like Ezekial, Revelation or Daniel. What is the literary context of this verse, passage, and book? When was it written? What was the political situation of the original audience? What is the genre of this or that passage? How would someone living at that time interpret that genre? What kinds of idioms, metaphors, hyperbole, etc would these ancient people be intuitively familiar with, but are not used (and not known) in our culture? How does it compare to similar, non-canonical literature of the same genre? None of these questions can be adequately addressed in a single twitter post, a news article, a Sunday sermon, or podcast. In fact, if anyone makes you feel that understanding Isaiah 17 (or anything else apocalyptic) is intuitive and easy, they are oversimplifying. If anyone cannot answer these kinds of questions, then their interpretation is not worth your attention, time, or money.

This is not a poorly written thriller novel.

There is more at stake than mere theological disagreement. Crystal ball gazing and Christian Zionism have serious, concrete consequences. Right now, the public overwhelmingly opposes United States military action in Syria. Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, already upped the ante when he unambiguously stated that he his country would provide further support to Syria if the United States intervenes. Furthermore, there are allegations that the gas attacks came from the rebels not from the Syrian government, despite what the Whitehouse administrations says. At the time of this writing, things are smoother over via diplomacy, but the two super powers are still cold warrioring it. While Christian Zionists may look at this as an exciting, inevitable, new chapter in prophetic progress, it looks to everyone else like a conflict that can be prevented. Indeed, it is a conflict that should be prevented.

I spent my high school years in a denomination that taught the crystal ball gazing approach to scripture. I happily left it behind, especially when I learned of alternative views. The crystal ball approach makes Christians look foolish when the prophecies do not come around. We look even more silly when we revise our interpretations, rather than admit that something is wrong. Its methods of reading scripture are intellectually troubled. At best, it helps American Christians ignore the plight of Christians in the middle east. At worst, it inspires a nearly fetishistic fascination with violence in far away countries. Most notably, now, with the conflict in Syria.

To close, I’d like to ask all Christian Zionists to do the rest of Christendom a favor: please just stop. The crystal ball gazing isn’t helping anyone.